Dutch Style Bikes by Peace Bicycles
Quality, Super Comfortable, Buy Once, Fully Equipped Dutch Bikes
Peace Bicycles is a Dutch bike manufacturer offering direct pricing to buy bikes online. No middleman. Our bikes come fully equipped with front & rear lights, coat guard, chain guard, fenders, bell, rear rack and balloon tires standard. They are made using only the highest quality materials and offer the most comfortable upright riding position. Not to mention how awesome looking they are. Bikes ship same day before 2pm EST and next day after 2pm EST. We offer the best customer service 24-7.
Those used to riding beach cruisers often describe us as a Dutch cruiser bike brand. And they’re right because we make a balloon tire bicycle so it is in a way a cruiser. At the same time, the original European style bicycles had balloon tires. And some still do.
Classic Bicycle Designs
Dutch bikes are classic in design because of their vintage looking frames and traditional parts including guards, fenders, and rear racks. If you’re shopping for a classic commuter bike, then our Peace city bicycles are a perfect choice for you. Make sure to check our Bike with Basket package for the authentic and classy utility style.
Choose Your Preferred Dutch Style Commuter Package
European Cycle Chic Lifestyle Wherever You're
Our Peace bikes will be shipped to you anywhere in the world – contact us for rates. You’ll get a European style bicycle sent to your door equipped with all the guards needed to protect your clothes. Now you can follow your favorite cycle chic fashion with ease. Each Peace bike is a great commuter with an upright riding position – a perfect fit for the European lifestyle.
We look forward to seeing pictures of all you commuters around the world!
Designer Style - Heads Will Turn!
Each Peace bike is a high end designer bike that is affordably priced. Bikes feature signature styling like matching grips and a vintage saddle, engraved logos, a 3d metal headbadge and the nicest looking Schwalbe Fat Frank Balloon Tires in brown or cream. The Diamond Frame model comes with a unique, retro style string coat guard. Bikes are available in three designer colors.
For fashion biking enthusiasts, we also offer designer packages that include extra fashion accessories.
The Comfortable Option
Pothole proof balloon tires, a spring-loaded saddle and comfortable grips, road-absorbing frame design and an upright seating position are just a few features that make Peace bikes the perfect choice for comfort ride seekers. See a full overview of our comfort bikes features.
A Smart Buy
High-end Design Buy Direct and Save $500 Dutch Bike Shopping … hassle free
For a shopper searching for the all around best Dutch style bike, there are endless options in the market. Sometimes it’s great to have so many options, but other times it can drive you crazy. Going through this process ourselves, it definitely was difficult to go through. That’s why we started Peace Bicycles.
With dozens of similar bike brands, we realized that there was a need to clear things up for the enthusiast consumer. We’ve spent years developing our own quality product and now sell it direct. We researched and created the highest quality Dutch bike brand. We then identified and now offer the best value in this product category. While we’re definitely not an eCommerce giant with endless selection, we’re also not a dirt-cheap value brand at the expense of quality and customer service either. We just keep an eye on the market for you and help you get to the point faster! That’s the way we prefer to shop ourselves it and we know we’re not alone!
Direct to Consumer
We’re undoubtedly a direct to consumer retail bike company. Bicycles we offer are manufactured in Taiwan at the same factories that other premium brands in the industry use. We import direct to California, and sell directly to the public Worldwide, via our online bike store at the Peacebicycles.com.
Our easy to navigate website, variety of bicycle options, 24×7 customer service and sum of knowledge collected on Dutch bikes gives the feel and expertise of buying from a local bike shop, yet offers the price advantages of buying direct from a wholesaler.
The Peace Company
Peace Bicycles is a Sarasota based company. It’s a bike season year-round in Florida, and we’re always game to go for a ride!
Dutch Style Commuting Explosion
Most people in the Netherlands commute by bicycle and it’s been this way for a long time. Dutch style bikes are made to be everyday leisure commuters. These are the bikes you ride to work on, get the groceries with, and take out for a cruise to your favorite coffee shop or restaurant. Bicycle commuting is increasing as the congestion in cities continues to grow and as people look towards incorporating more physical activity into their lives. Cities around the world are installing safe bike lane infrastructure since more and more people are commuting by bike. Scheduled bike rides bring out thousands of people who literally shut down roads of entire parts of cities. Because of these things Dutch Biking is currently experiencing booming growth worldwide.
Features of our Dutch Bikes
North American bike culture is changing, and it is changing fast. Our Dutch Bikes, like our Peace Step-thru and Peace Diamond Frame are a simplified version for the more practical commuter. We’ve eliminated some of the non-practical features of bikes in the Dutch Bike style while still keeping the ones that commuters need.
Nowadays, bicycles are not only used for exercise purposes, but as a means of transportation. As a result, people are increasingly looking for a type of bicycle that is comfortable and simple in maintenance. This is where the so-called Dutch bike has been taking the market by storm. But what is this bike all about? In order to explain it, we have to go back in time.
The Dutch bike (or grandmother bike) is Dutch in name only. As a matter of fact, it is English in origin. Most of the features of the Dutch bike can be identified in the ladies’ version of the heavy English roadsters of the late 1890s: mudguards, a skirt guard, a step-through frame, and high handle bars. This version of the roadster fell out of fashion in England and many other Western countries, but it remained widely popular in the Netherlands.
Over time, American, English, French, Italian and German bicycles became sportier, more colorful, lighter and more status driven. The Dutch bikes however, stayed practical, black, heavy and cheap. The reason for this can be found in the Calvinistic character of the Dutch. Less materialistic and status-orientated than Brits or Americans, the Dutch never considered the bicycle as a poor mans’ transport. The Dutch bike remained cheap, sturdy, practical and unfashionable partly because bicycle makers in The Netherlands kept on promoting these qualities. They felt no need to adapt the original model. Dutch bikes are in effect English bikes, frozen in time.
The typical European Dutch bike is usually heavy and slow, our Dutch style bikes are lighter because we tried to use lighter parts everywhere we could. Holland is a flat country with almost no hills so a lighter, more agile bike is not really necessary. In the United States however, people are looking for a lighter, faster bike, partly because of different needs. If you would ride your Dutch bike on the streets of San Francisco, you might want your bike a bit lighter (hi-tensile steel, instead of solid steel) to get you over those hills. That is why the Dutch bikes found in the American market are usually a bit lighter, without losing their essential features.
Many bicycle companies nowadays are using the term Dutch-style to brand their commuter or utility models. However, in a lot of cases, these bicycles lack many of the essential features that makes the Dutch bike unique. A traditional Dutch bike is all-weather, all-day bike, that gets you wherever you need to go, wearing normal clothing and shoes, carrying whatever it is that you need, in a convenient and comfortable way. It requires minimal maintenance and will last for decades. A sturdy, practical, heavy, pragmatic and comfortable means of transport. What follows is a thorough description of the main features of a classic Dutch bike.
An Upright Style of Cycling
The most important feature of the Dutch bike is the upright riding position that we made sure to include. You ride sitting up straight, which allows for very good visibility and greater comfort. Instead of riding hunched over, this posture is more ergonomic and will take all strain off your back, neck, forearms, wrist, and shoulders. This is achieved by the high, sweeping handlebars that curve in towards the rider. Because of the upright position, a wider saddle is needed. Your weight is much more supported by the saddle and your legs, instead of your arms.
Most people don’t race to work, so the benefit of this more ergonomic position (instead of a more aerodynamic position with race bikes) is that you are able to look around without difficulty. Traffic signs, cars, and pedestrians will be seen easier while navigating through traffic in this upright position, making it saver for yourself and others around you, a must in an urban environment. The higher handlebars will result in less aerodynamics, but after all, the idea of a Dutch bike is not speed, but comfort.
The Steel (Step-through) Frame
The frame of a Dutch bike distinguishes itself by its step-through frame, based on the ladies’ version of the English roadster of the late 1890s. Although we can consider the diamond frame version a Dutch-style bike as well, the step-through frame is what makes it unique. This kind of frame is all about comfort. It makes mounting the bicycle a lot easier, especially for women wearing dresses or skirts. However, unlike the English roadster (diamond frame for men, step-through frame for women), the Dutch bike with step-through frame is not suggested to be gender-specific. The ease of how to get up on the bike makes is accessible for everybody. No more swinging your leg over the bike, simply step though and off you go.
The frame is traditionally made of (stainless) steel, which makes it heavier than aluminum frame bicycles. A steel frame will absorb vibrations and bumps a lot better than an aluminum one, resulting in a more comfortable, smoother ride. Over time, many bike companies switched to aluminum in order to make the bicycle lighter (and cheaper). However, because of its characteristics, it resulted in a harsh, uncomfortable ride, making it necessary to add suspension or shock-absorbing stems. This made the bikes more expensive and the added things would again add weight, which defeats the purpose of using aluminum in the first place. Also, these extras can malfunction or break, leaving you with higher maintenance costs. We chose to go with high-tensile steel because it’s a good, strong, long-lasting steel, and lighter than stainless steel (but slightly heavier than chromoly).
A classic Dutch-style bike will always come with a strong, steel rear rack like we’ve included standard. Because of its sturdiness, it can be used to transport heavy objects, even another person. Child carriers can easily be attached to the rack. We made sure to include a sturdy rack for all of your carrying needs.
Watch Out for my Suit! Fenders, Skirt and Chain Guards
A Dutch bike is designed to be utilized for any time of commutation, whether it is to go to work, a leisurely tour around the countryside, or to go to a friends house across town. No bicycle shorts, Lycra or helmet, but your regular clothing, a cocktail dress or even a suit. Because of this, we can encounter a couple of features a mountain bike or road bike will not possess.
The most obvious one are the fenders, or mudguards. Dutch bikes usually have them made from steel (like the frame) and made to last. Our fender are made from alloy to decrease weight. These long full-length fenders protect your clothing from getting wet or dirty when driving towards your destination on a not so beautiful day. The one on the front prevent excess spray on your feet, while the one at the rear protects your back. The rear fender can be equipped with a mud-flap as well to prevent further spray.
A second feature to protect your everyday clothing are the skirt or coat guard which are also included standard with each bike. The skirt guard is the large plate covering a portion of the rear wheel in order to prevent your clothes from getting into the spokes. Longer skirts and dresses tend to waver around and might eventually get in between your wheels causing accidents and damaged clothes. As the name suggests, the skirt guard will protect the user from these hazards.
Our chain guard, which is made from alloy to decrease weight, entails the metal covering of the derailleur and chain, preventing the pants to get caught in between the chain or befouled with chain oil. Unlike the fenders and the skirt guard, who’s only function is to protect the clothing of the biker, the chair guard has a second function, namely to protect the chain itself from the weather elements, reducing the risk of rust, resulting in lower maintenance costs.
Gear it up?
Due to the flat landscape of the Netherlands, it was very uncommon for Dutch bikes to have gears. Nowadays, Dutch bikes traditionally are single speed, or 3-speed. We’ve packed a derailleur with 7-speed gears for those tough hill climbs.
Caliper Brakes to the rescue!
Dutch bikes commonly used a coaster brake. A coaster brake, or a back pedal brake, is a type of drum incorporated into the back hub with an internal freewheel. Simple put, when you pedal back, your brake. This explains as well why we usually don’t see derailleurs on a Dutch bike. The coaster brake works perfectly with the straight chain-line and doesn’t need a lot of maintenance. The main advantage of the coaster brake, compared to the V-brakes, is that it is not influenced by the weather. Hot weather, rain or snow, the back pedal brake will do its job.
Nowadays, the more practical V-brakes are used more frequently (front and back) but they remain not quite as effective as the back pedal brake: they wear down easily and are not as efficient in dusty or dirty conditions. However, in a hilly urban environment V-brakes are essential as the pedal brake can not be effectively used while going uphill. We decided to go with our vintage looking caliper brakes for both front and back wheels because they are reliable, great for hills, and much easier to use and set up.
Can You See or Hear Me Coming?
Another characteristic of the Dutch bike is that it includes generator-powered lights: a red rear light and typically a round chrome headlight on the front. Power is generated by a hub or a tyre-driven dynamo, resulting in an unlimited supply of energy. No need to take of your removable lights (for them not to get stolen), the lights are permanently attached to your bike, and light will always be available. The traditional, tyre-driven “bottle” generators is still one of the most popular systems out there, because of their low cost and maintenance. Downside of this system is that is affected by rain or puddles, and has quite a drag. For this reason we decided to use battery powered lights. Alternatively, the dynamo hubs have less drag, are silent and efficient and do not wear out your tire, but expensive. That is why you will find that most real Dutch bikes will have a bottle dynamo, build onto the frame itself (usually the front fork).
All Dutch bikes (and our bikes) comes standard with a bell (it is actually obligatory for bicycles to have a bell in The Netherlands). Because of the high amount of bicycle commuters, it is just a must. Bikes are silent, a bell is the only way to let pedestrians know you arrive.
Dutch-style bicycles, unlike the typical road bike or MTB, will always come with some sort of kickstand. The classic kickstand is a sturdy, integrated center-stand. The stand can be seen as a part of the rack and can be folded up and down easily. Convenient, as you no longer need to find a bike rack, tree or lamppost every time you stall your bike for a minute. The robust center-stand is complemented by a steering wheel stabilizer, a spring that refrains the front wheel from wobbling around when the bike is on it’s parking stand. Our bikes currently come with a single-leg kickstand, but we will implement a dual leg stand as we move into internal hub options.
Every Dutch bike usually comes with a build-in rear wheel-lock. The wheel-lock gives you enough security for leaving the bike for a short period of time (like for doing some grocery shopping). Remember, a Dutch bike is made of hi-tensile steel which makes it robust and not the easiest thing to pickup (though our bikes are only around 30 pounds). Still, theft is frequent all over the world (except Japan – man that place is honest!) and what you really need is an additional heavy external lock if you’re going to be leaving your baby unattended. So for this reason we did not include one.
So why choose a Dutch bike over any other type of bicycle? Well, that depends on your needs. If you like to go at 30 miles an hour for a substantial distance (60-80 miles), a race bike is your obvious choice. If you prefer to explore mountains on unpaved, muddy or gravel paths, look no further and go get yourself a MTB or ATB. However, if you use your bike for anything else, the Dutch bike will be your best friend.
Riding through traffic, commuting, or short to medium long leisure rides, the Dutch bike will get you wherever you want to go without a problem. The upright style of riding will give you the benefit of being able to look around clearly, which is a must in traffic and a bonus during your relaxing rides across the countryside. Because the Dutch bike is build for everyday life use, no special gear (like shoes or racing shorts) is required, just hop on it and be on your way. By design It needs very little maintenance and its sturdiness will ensure you it will last a lifetime. In short, a Dutch bike is a pragmatic, practical and comfortable everyday means of transport, efficient, environment-friendly and beautiful, all-in-one.
Since the invention of the bicycle, people ride their bike in regular clothes. Especially in the UK and the Netherlands, driving a bike as a way to get around was common. People would get ready for work and hop on their bike, without changing clothes. We can see this way of commuting clearly in the Dutch-style bike’s characteristics, such as skirt guards, fenders and chain guards. Cycling was fashionable, but that changed after the second World War. Cars increasingly became the (only) way of transport, and bicycles were marketed more and more as a sports item. Race bikes and mountain bikes became more popular, and with that, cycling shorts and gloves, lycra, helmets, and other gear (except in bicycle countries like the Netherlands). The bike as a transport option in cities largely vanished from the public consciousness.
Then, the cycle chic happened. Colville-Andersen believed that that the idea of aggressive, competitive (racing) cyclists damages the concept of cycling as an everyday means of getting around. Why would someone dress like he’s driving the Tour de France, when he’s only going to the grocery store to some vegetables? He advocated cycling in your regular clothes to any event or meeting. If you are going to a job interview, cycle in your suit. If you have a fancy dinner, go there on your bike in your beautiful cocktail dress. If you can walk in in, you can ride in it! Colville-Andersen wanted everybody around the world to embrace cycling in the way the Danish do, making the bike an integral part of everyday life. No need for any form of sport gear. Use your bicycle like you would use your car. He created a website, named Copenhagen Cycle Chic in 2007, where photographs of stylish men and women riding around through town on the bicycle were published daily. The blog became a worldwide hit and the term Cycle Chic was born.
The point of Cycling chic is all about to able able to cycle without special protection (like helmets) or special gear, but with your pet, your baby boy or girl, or with another adult passenger riding on the rack. Drive your bike with grace, elegance and dignity, with style over speed. In the US, Cycle Chic is associated with utility cycling, or in other words, cycling to get around, not just for the purpose of exercise. Be fashionable, and use your bike like you would use any other way of transport: in your clothes of destination.
Cycling has definitely become more fashionable. We don’t want to just ride our bike, we want to do it in style and as a result we can find more and more bike accessories on the market. Some of the accessories are classic, like fancy bells, kid seats, a farmers market pannier, or a front basket. But it does not stop there. Here is a selection of accessories we found on the market:
- banana holder: yes, a banana holder
- buddyrider: a bicycle pet seat that is mounted over the center of the bike instead of the more traditional front mounted bicycle dog baskets, which makes the bike easier to handle
- bike cup holders
- bike planter: to add some green to your bike (you will drive around with a real plant mounted in your bike)
- pet baskets and pet trailers
- lunchbox saddle bag (and numerous or types of bags)
- handlebar grips
- helmet covers: if you prefer using a helmet, but you want to do it in style
- dress guards
- bicycle seat covers
You can expect that, in this technology-dominated day and age, more and more tech accessories are available as well. After all, there is so much more you can have on your bike than just bike planters and banana holders:
- portable generators: turn some of that kinetic energy to power your devices; attach a portable generator to your bicycle axle and charge your cell phone or tablet
- wireless Bluetooth speakers
- reflective spokes and valve bike lights
It would be impossible to list even 5 percent of the accessories out there, but if you think of something, however crazy it might be, chances are it probably exists. So pimp up your ride and make it reflect your personality. You will be surprised what you can find.
Unlike the race bike (which is strictly made for speed) or the mountain bike (with 27 different gears), the Dutch-style bike is made to be versatile and people all over the world use it to its full advantage. This is the reason why the are becoming more and more popular again. The bike lends itself perfectly to drive your kids to school. You can install up to two separate child seats, one in the front and one at the back, and for bigger families there are even trailers available.
Millions of people everyday use their bike to go to work. The Dutch bike again is the best option, as it will protect your clothes. This way, you won’t go to work in your racing gear as you’ll save precious time by not needing to change back into your work clothes at arrival. Groceries can be done as well. You can stuff plenty of foods away in a farmers market pannier and you save time and money on parking. If you live in a city, you probably spend a lot more time than desired in your car, stuck in traffic jams or looking for parking space. The solution is simple, use your Dutch bike. 99% of the activities you do with your car can easily be done with your bike: going to work or out for groceries, or even bring your son to soccer practice. It is cheaper, healthier and greener. Lastly, take out your bike for a leisurely spin around the countryside. The upright position will make it more comfortable for your back and you will be able to enjoy the view with ease, while having a nice talk with your friends or partner.
As mentioned before, the Dutch-style bike is an English roadster bike, frozen in time. It may not come as a surprise that, when we look at the European manufacturers that make these style of bicycles, the oldest and most renowned brands are from England and The Netherlands. Nevertheless, manufacturers from all over Europe are making Dutch-style bicycles these days. We will sum up some of the more important brands below.
Raleigh Bicycle Company (UK)
The Raleigh Bicycle Company was founded in 1890, and thereby one of the oldest bicycle companies in the world. Their first roadster safety bikes became very popular and can be seen as the beginning of the Dutch-style bicycles. It was based on these models Gazelle designed there first Dutch bike. Raleigh is know for is being the first to design and manufacture the 3 speed hub,under the name of Sturmey-Archer. The company also produced motor vehicles for a period of time, but by 1938, the company had divested itself of all but bicycle production, with a turnaround of close to 500,000 bicycles a year. During the 1960s, Raleigh became the world’s largest producer of bicycles. Unfortunately, Raleigh ceased production of bike frames in the UK by 1999 and in 2003 all manufacturing was switched to Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The current models are made of aluminum.
Current Dutch-style bike models: Heritage Urban Cameo, Heritage Urban Spirit
The history of the Batavus bicycles date back to 1904, and is considered one of the classic and most popular bike brands in the Netherlands (together with Gazelle). During its most productive years (the 1970s) Batavus produced more than 250,000 bicycles a year, all in there (at the time) incredibly modern plant in Heerenveen. Besides bicycles, Batavus also produced mopeds, but ceased their moped activities in the early 1980s. Batavus bikes are considered the greenest bikes in the Netherlands, as the company takes pride in looking for sustainable production methods. For example, Batavus as the first bike manufacture to use water-based paints, reducing harmful emissions drastically. If you look around in Amsterdam, one could argue that Batavus bikes are the most popular bicycles in the Netherlands. It might important to add that Batavus bikes are all still made in the Netherlands. In other words, these are Dutch-style bicycles made by Dutch designers, Dutch engineers, and Dutch workers. It’s hard to go any more Dutch than that. The Batavus models still have that classic stainless steel frame.
Current popular Dutch-style bike models: Batavus Personal Bike, Old Dutch, Diva, Hommage
Hollandia bikes have been on the market since 1886 and still make classic Dutch-style bikes. Hollandia bikes available in the US are made in China nowadays (through the Cycle Force Group). Most of the frames made in China (usually for the US market) are made of hi-tensile steel or chromoly.
Current popular Dutch-style bike models: Hollandia Royal Dutch, Hollandia Opa, Hollandia Oma
Royal Dutch Gazelle (NL)
Gazelle’s first bike was designed in 1902 and was named the Gazelle Tour Populair. This grandmother bike became the true icon of Dutch bikes (we can think of the adventures of Piet Pelle on his Gazelle bike). She continues to be copied by bike brands all over the world. However, the original model is still in production, still handmade, with the same design, build to last a lifetime. Royal Dutch Gazelle is not only the oldest bicycle brand In the Netherlands, it is viewed as the most trusted one in all of Europe. They have sold over 13 million bicycles in their history, which is amazing if you realize every one of them are handmade.
All Gazelle bicycles are still made in Europe. The classic models still have that (solid stainless) steel frame, while the more modern City and Urban bikes have the lighter aluminum frame. Obviously, all these models have the characteristics of a Dutch-style bike.
Current popular Dutch-style bike models: Tour Populair, Chamonix, Orange Pure, Eclipse, NL
Parshley Cycles (UK)
Pashley is England’s longest established manufacturer of hand-built bicycles. The company has survived, since its inception in 1926, as a pure British manufacturer. They have never taken its production base overseas. Every single Pashley bicycle is still made in Stratford-upon-Avon (where Shakespeare was born). The Dutch-style bicycles Parshley offers today still have a traditionally lugged and brazed hand-crafted steel frame.
Current popular Dutch-style bike models: Parshley Princess, Parshley Roadster
The French company Peugeot, mostly know for its cars, has been in the bicycle business since the beginning (late 1800s). Peugeot manufactured all kinds of models, but their road racing bikes are the most renowned (think about the early years of the Tour de France). Today, Peugeot still offers Dutch-style (or better English safety) bikes, which have become popular again over the years.
Current popular Dutch-style bike models: Peugeot LC, Peugeot CO2
Azor is a small Dutch bicycle brand that manufactures bikes since 1997. They specialize in Dutch-style bikes and are known for their high quality products. They offer stainless steel as well as aluminum frame bikes.
Current popular Dutch-style bike models: Azor Oma bike
Velorbis is a Danish bicycle manufacture that specializes in Dutch-style models. The bikes are designed in Denmark and manufactured in Germany, where they are hand made. Most models have a hand-built lugged and brazed chromoly frame. Interesting note: the bicycles are used by the Danish Royal Family.
Current popular Dutch-style bike models: Velorbis Churchill, Kopenhagen Ladies
Everyone knows that biking is huge in the Netherlands, but why is that? Sure the county is pretty flat. And yes, there are many instances of short distances in Amsterdam. But which city doesn’t have that… At least the short distances part….San Francisco not included.
The answer is infrastructure and social adoption. Before World War I, bicycles in Germany started gaining popularity between the working class and unions. The northern part of Germany is mostly flat. The upper classes were busy riding horses and typically didn’t care for this working class vehicle.
In the 1890’s the Dutch bicycle industry experienced an increase in growth. The Association of Dutch Bicycle Manufacturers was founded in Utrecht in 1893 and later on car manufacturers joined the association and it was renamed to “De Rijwiel- en Automobiel-Industrie” (RAI) in 1900. They’re still in working order and you can check them out here.
Bicycles became more and more popular at the end of the 19th century mostly due to quality and technical improvements and even despite economic problems in Holland, 1893 and 1895 were excellent years for the whole of the Dutch bicycle industry. Costs went down tremendously with high volume production and the flooding of bicycles from America. (Yes, America made bikes:)
At one point there were around 50 bicycle factories and thousands of bicycle brands in the Netherlands. Today only a few remain including brands like Gazelle, Batavus, Union and Sparta.
When you go back far enough the name J.T. Scholte comes up as being one of the first to set up a bicycle trading business in Amsterdam and for founding the first cyclists’ riding school in the Netherlands. Scholte and his agent H.H. Timmer started selling and renting bicycles in 1869. The story goes that Timmer sold a bicycle to Henricus Burgers, a Metal smith from Deventer who then went on to manufacture his own bikes in 1869 and became the biggest influence in the up incoming Dutch bicycle industry. When I say up- in-coming I mean that it took another couple decades before other large bicycle operations were created in Holland.
Small blacksmith shops and metal industries started making bicycles in Holland, while the makers in Germany and England often used sewing machine factories. At that point in time England dominated the market and many new Dutch manufacturers produced their own bicycles while also selling English brands. Dutch brands had yet to establish their own reputation.
When the war started Germany has its hands full with other things, but their next door neighbor the Netherlands remained in relative Peace. There where cutbacks but there was peace. And workers and middle class alike embraced the bicycle as a solid means of transportation. The bicycle really fit in with the Dutch mindset of being a humble hardworking people.
The Dutch government began building infrastructure including road crossings, bike paths, (separate) bicycle paths, signposts, bridges, canal paths, and more.
Imagine the government creating a law where every newly built home had to have a shed for bikes with a separate rear access. Well it’s been in effect since the 1920’s! This type of continuous legislation helped spearhead the bicycle as a major force of transport.
But in the years after World War 2, the Netherlands went through reconstruction and became incredibly wealthy. From 1948-1960 the average income had an increase of 44%. And by 1970 it went up to 222%. People started acquiring expensive goods and this lead to many more cars on the road. These streets were not built for cars so infrastructure had to be changed to make room for more and more cars, including some of the old biking infrastructure. City centers were turned into car parks and the daily travel distance went from 3.9 km in 1957 to 23.2 km in 1975. Biking decreased by 6% every year.
This modern push towards automobiles came at a terrible cost as 3300 people died in 1971 alone. Over 400 of these deaths where children under the age of 14. This butchery of children sparked a protest movement named “Stop the Child Murder” which called for safer streets for children.
In 1973 the first oil crisis hit the country. The Prime minister told the people of the Netherlands that this was a life changing event and that the Netherlands would have to change their ways and be less dependent on cars and oil. He also stated that this was possible without a decrease in their quality of life. Pro cycling policies, like car free Sundays fit well into that strategy. Around this time the first city centers where made car free for good and protests continued. The message was clear – mass motorization killed people, the cities, and the environment. Mass biking tours like our Ciclavia, and smaller protests in favor of cycling facilities created an awareness that eventually changed thinking and political thought about transportation policies.
The way Dutch streets are built today is the result of political decisions in the 1970s to turn away from the car central policies of the prosperous post war era. Municipalities started experimenting with complete and safe cycle routes away from car traffic.
The first cycle routes were created from scratch in Tilberg and the Hague. Looking back today they can be seen as the start of the countries modern cycling policies. These policies lead to an increase in cycling by 30-60% in the Hague and 75% in the Hague.
The Netherlands has had pro-cycling policies ever since then.
For example, most recently Eindhoven, a city in the Netherlands took steps to make really biking even safer by installing flashing LED lights at several street crossings to alert drivers of approaching cyclists. What a great idea. The technology is called BikeScout.